Wittedrift – Secrets of Nature Beyond the Beach
If you drive towards Plett and turn inland onto one of two roads that points to Wittedrift, you’re in for a surprise. You’ll be entering a completely different world from the beaches and bars of Plett. Instead, welcome to a world of wetlands, forests, fynbos and grasslands – watched over by the big, blue, bulky range of the Tsitsikamma mountains.
Anyone who wants to see the garden route beyond the beach will find nature at its best here, with myriad ways to explore it. Testimony to the richness of its natural resources, Wittedrift will play host to Bitou’s first birding festival in October this year (see opposite page).
Nature lies everywhere here in Wittedrift – from the quiet, rural roadside trees and shrubs of the Stofpad (bring your bikes and cycle this beautiful, peaceful 5km road) to the secretive waterways of the Bitou River, home to gorgeously-coloured kingfishers, the elusive otter, shy bushbuck and the magnificent Fish Eagle.
The Bitou River is an adventure in itself. It wends its way gently through Wittedrift and down to the sea. Discovery lies around every turn, and the overwhelming peaceful atmosphere redefines the word “adventure”. The otter makes its home here, bushbuck come to the shores to drink, birds both common and rare step soundlessly along the shallows in their hunt for frogs and small fish. Walking trails run along the shores of the river, or you can take a kayak from Moonriver and drift along the lily-fringed waterways. Bitou Birding can settle you for as long as you like on the river-side lapa, from where you can commune with nature to your heart’s content. Bhejane Tours offers a unique eco-experience in their bio-mimicry camp on the shores of the Bitou, with guided routes by expert guides. No matter how you do it, the call of the Bitou wetland should be answered.
Moving away from the water, there’s plenty more to see and do. Go on an outride from Boschrivier Farm; it doesn’t matter if you’re inexperienced or a seasoned rider, there is the right horse to give you a confident and enjoyable ride. The route will take you through forests, grasslands, across streams and all the way you’ll enjoy the freedom in nature that only horse-riding can give you.
Hunger Games and Game of Thrones have inspired many to try and master one of the oldest weapons in the history of war – bow and arrow. Howberry Hills farm has a great archery setup to get you hitting your target in no time. It’s elegant, takes skill, and will instil you with a sense of victory when you get it right.
Wittedrift boasts two game reserves. At the end of the Stofpad lies Giraffe View Safari Camp, where you can get up close and (almost) personal with a range of game, including the beautiful masaai giraffe with its starburst markings and of course the now-famous Plett Game reserve. Take a drive over the grasslands and then up into indigenous forest for the variety and diversity of flora and fauna for which Wittedrift is becoming well-known.
Why not stay overnight and enjoy the tranquillity? – Bella Manga, Eventide Lodge, Boschrivier Farm, Giraffe View and Moonriver provide a range of high quality accommodation at affordable prices.
These are just some of the activities in which you can immerse yourself, getting back to nature and finding adventure in the most unlikely way. We can honestly say that the word “adventure” doesn’t always involve high speeds, big machines and defying the odds. Here in Wittedrift it means finding the unexpected, making yourself invisible, and discovering natural treasures that are hidden from a casual (or hasty) passer-by.
Wittedrift Birding Festival – Discover more in Wittedrift than you thought possible
Be part of the first-ever birding festival to be held in Wittedrift and you will be surprised. Surprised at the astonishing diversity of nature – from fynbos to forests, from grasslands to reedbeds and riversides – and the birds who make their home here.
The festival takes place from 19-27 October 2019, and will offer nine distinctive destinations with some 130 species of bird, some of them migratory visitors. The Festival is designed to celebrate this abundance of birdlife and provide an opportunity to experience these beautiful birds with expert guides.
Here are some of the main attractions:
- Guided birding tours
- Birding on horseback
- Illustrated talks over dinner from top birding experts
- Bird ringing demonstration
- Some great deals for overnight accommodation and packages
Bitou Bird Hide
A bird hide on the edge of a large floodplain pool, home to large numbers of migrant birds who gather in the late afternoon and early morning. You will get an unobstructed view of wading birds such as stilts, whimbrels, plovers, as well as a number of birds such as warblers that hide in the rushes and surrounding saltbush.
Bitou River Lapa and Saltbush Walk
Destination description: A fascinating self-guided walk taking you through two distinct environments – the floodplain flats interspersed with pools and side-channels and edged with rushes and saltbush that houses some distinctive, elusive species such as the Lievaillant’s Cisticola and warblers; and the riverside thatched shelter that provides a perfect viewing point for kingfisher, ducks, herons, as well as the distinctive lee-side fynbos hillsides that are home to the golden oriole, shrikes, flycatchers and canaries. Here you’ll want to linger in the shady peace, and possibly spot the resident fish eagles.
Bitou Wetland Drive
Guided self-drive along the eastern and western shores of the Bitou wetland and environment. A rich diversity of water, grassland and thicket birds. BirdLife Plett will lead this tour.
Boschrivier Farm Birding Outride
Take a ride on horseback across Wittedrift’s oldest farm where you can view birds and nature from a different perspective. The open fields, pecan-nut grove, riverside and areas of natural forest are home to a wide range of birds including jackal and forest buzzards, black-headed oriole and rameron pigeon. Boschrivier’s horses know this route well, and will give you a safe and enjoyable ride.
Fynbos Walk and Bitou River
Guided by a qualified local guide who will take you through the unique fynbos eco-system flanking the Wittedrift honeybush tea farm, the path leads down a drier leeside slope to the western shore of the Bitou River, and follows its course past reed beds, milkwoods and indigenous bush back to the bridge across the Wittedrift Main road. This route gives you the full experience of the diversity of the Wittedrift vegetation and the birds that live there.
Destination description: Nestled among the hills at the end of Wittedrift’s Stofpad, Giraffe View’s grasslands and forest fringes are home to some of the more spectacular birds to be found in the area, including the secretary bird, Knysna turaco and spotted eagle owl. Guided by BirdLife Plett. This is a special opportunity to view birds at this spectacular destination at a discounted festival price. Giraffe View will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Wittedrift Way programme.
Plett Game Reserve
The famous Plett Game Reserve is offering an afternoon birding drive at a special rate, presenting an opportunity for birding enthusiasts to explore the grasslands flanked by the spectacular Tsitsikamma mountain range. This two-hour guided drive will concentrate on the bodies of water at the deepest corners of the reserve which is now home to two secretary birds who were rescued and released here after the devastating fires of 2017. Other birds you are likely to encounter on your drive are heron, ducks, vultures; and a variety of raptors, plovers, doves, kingfishers, warblers and weavers.
Destination description: Guided by a qualified local guide, this delightful walk along the wooded banks of the Bitou River will take you next to the pools and reeds that are home to ducks, waders and weavers, some of the birds that feed off the insects, frogs and small reptiles that inhabit this area. You will be among the first to walk this path which has been freshly cut to give you a view into this waterside world.
Guided self-drive along the R340 tarred road towards the Prince Alfred Pass. BirdLife Plett will take you to the open grassland and forest edges rich in raptors and home to the rare Denham’s Bustard. The drive ends at Bella Manga Country Escape where visitors can stroll along the forest edges and grasslands at their leisure.